Lead Poisoning: The Ignored Scandal

Lead Poisoning: The Ignored Scandal

The ethical issue presented by the case relates to lead poisoning where researchers conducted a study on lead poisoning in children. The scientists who conducted the research  encouraged the landlord to rent  houses to families with children aged between six  months and four years (Epstein 1). At this age bracket, lead poisoning was higher because the crawling children could make contact with the lead on the floor and walls. In addition, the brain development damage would have been highest at this stage.

Once the parents agreed to participate in the study, their houses would receive lead removal assistance that varied in thoroughness. In addition, their children would receive regular blood tests to ascertain the level of lead in them. These children were healthy and with low lead content before the study. The varied types of lead treatment meant that the researchers willingly exposed some homes to lead than others, just for the sake of the research. Once the results of lead levels in the children’s blood were obtained, the researcher kept the information from parents who would have  taken steps to reduce the impact of lead in children. During the course of the research, the researchers identified lead hotspots that could  shed dangerous lead dust, but failed to inform the parent. After six months, the lead in the child whose home had lead hot  spots quadrupled. Such high levels of lead could cause brain damage. When Leslie Hanes rented an apartment, the researchers  noticed that her house was not lead free, yet they failed to inform her. Her child was poisoned by lead and her IQ lowered.  During the research, the researchers noticed that the lead levels in Leslie’s child had tripled, but denied her access to this information until three months were over.  Another dimension of the ethical issue is that the government refused to ban lead containing consumer products because of the revenue the companies were making from the sale of  the products. Therefore, the government responded to the lead poisoning cases by providing medical care to the affected, instead of  preventing the poisoning.

The dilemmas presented by the study relates to both the government and the researchers. The government was in a dilemma as to whether it should ban lead containing paints. This would lead to loss of  revenues by the manufacturing   companies. The other dilemma was whether to  allow lead paints production and risk poisoning to children. From the researchers’ perspective, the dilemma was whether to inform the owners of the houses containing lead and jeopardize the study or let the poisoning continue for the sake of the study. The article insinuates that the government  allowed the lead containing paints to be sold and failed to design programs to clean houses that had been painted with the lead containing paint. In addition, the article asserts that the researchers may have aimed to conduct research to expose the government’s reluctance to the problem.

There is an ethical solution, especially from the government. The government can limit the amount of lead in the paint and institute a commission to oversee the enforcement of the regulation. In addition, the government should provide a guideline to be followed by ethical commissions that allow research to be carried out. The guidelines should prioritize human life and require researchers to report life threatening situations to people once they discover them. This will prevent the recurrence of such dangers and improve the quality of people’s lives.

Work Cited

Epstein, Helen. Lead poisoning: The ignored Scandal. 21 Mar 2013. Print.


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